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Language works by externalising the meanings we are making of the world. Stuart Hall considers language as anything which communicates meaning. When an individual reads a text, they tend to unconsciously break down and read the combinations of semiotics that are being portrayed. Within any text, the process of signification exists. That is, having a signifier, that which represents the denoted object, and the signified, the meanings that are associated with the signifier, called connotations. Both of these elements are always present in any text working together to produce an understanding (Chandler, 2009). For example, referring to the 'Knives scar lives' campaign in appendix A , the denotations that are visible in the text are the teenager facing the audience and the scar across his face. Simultaneously, these signifiers allow audience to create connotations associating meanings that relate to their understanding. Hall (2003) clearly suggests that the producer of the given text does not create its own language and meaning to which the receiver replies to passively, directly absorbing and accepting the proposed implication. He is stating that the process of representation and construction of meaning within language is double-sided and interactive. The possible interpretations of 'Knives scar lives' include that teenagers are having access to and using weapons dangerously, thus, hurting other people around them. The scar could represent the unforgettable and unforgiveable damage it will cause youngsters for their future. Audience are able to easily recognise the meaning of the campaign due to the captions used to encode the text. For example, 'knives scar lives' gives a clearer understanding of what the denotations describe. By encoding the text it enables directors to reduce or limit the range of connotations it produces allowing them to control what audience interpret (Bainbridge, 2011). This allows a message to be communicated faster. However, if encoding were not used, each individual may have a certain interpretation of the text which makes it polysemic, open to anyone representing no right or wrong meaning (Bainbridge, 2011). For example, having no captions, audience could read it as an image being torn into two pieces then stitched back together again. It is through the collaboration of these elements that make semiotic analysis a useful tool of understanding how texts in the media function.
Another useful component that is used for understanding how media texts function is the way directors frame texts. Framing texts depend on the context of the situation and the codes used to portray a certain understanding to the audience. There are several types of context in which texts could be interpreted via codes, including structural and generic (Lacey, 2009). For example, looking at the generic point of view, when referring back to appendix A 'Knives Scar Lives', the teenager is taken from a close-up distance as he is looking directly at the audience. His facial expression is demanding help from some sort of trouble he was in. These ideas are triggered through the dark and depressing lighting in the background. In addition, the stitched scar across the image provides a 'narrative' sense stating that he was in some sort of fight with the presence of sharp objects. One is able to recognise the presence of sharp objects due to the captions in the image, as mentioned previously. However, if the context of the image was altered, for example, the teenager will be placed in a background of a kitchen with bright lighting; it may enhance a different meaning. Possible interpretations could include the dangers of sharp objects in a kitchen and the necessity to use them appropriately and carefully with caution. Another important point to consider in reading the text is the social context it is being consumed in. it is clear that this text is from a government campaign due to the logo and caption on the bottom of the image, reading 'The Victorian Government'. Therefore, such text will most likely be communicated on billboards or bus stands for the public to see. However, it may have a different effect in different situations. For example, if a group of young boys came across this advertisement they would not take much notice and possibly make a 'joke' out of it. Whereas, if one of them were to be reading this text alone, it may have some sort of socio-emotional effect due to the lack of social connections and interruptions in the context he is in. Both the codes in the context of the text and the social context it is being portrayed in changes the effect of how media represents such messages (Lacey, 2009).
When reading a text, the meaning it represents inevitably relate to other texts, thus, texts are interdependent (Bainbridge, 2008). This means that audience understand and depict meaning from a text due to their previous knowledge of what these codes and signs mean. It is important to relate that media portrays texts using codes and signs in two different ways: address and interpellation. Address usually constructs of signs that implies a corresponding addressee. This means that not everyone will be included in reading and understanding the text that is being communicated by the media (Bainbridge, 2008). On the other hand, interpellation refers to texts that invite and encourage contribution with audience. It tends to try and personally involve the audience into being the subject of the text (University of Chicago, 2004).
By looking at the underlying rules and codes through which this text produces a meaning, we can come to an understanding of what it is trying to communicate, the messages it is trying to convey through the idea of 'modernity'. In this case, it is evident as the campaign utilises the issue and uses of sharp weapons and tools in a dangerous way resulting in negative affects and consequences. Why do individuals need to act such a way? The meanings interpreted portrays the availability of "psychological and moral hazards of modern life" (REF??). Issues in society brings out the feelings of alienation, rootlessness, loss of strong bonds and common values, hedonism, disenchantment of the world, and so on. Likewise, the loss of a generally agreed upon definitions of human dignity, human nature, and the resulting loss of value in human life have all been cited as the impact of a social process/civilization that reaps the fruits of growing privatization, subjectivism, reductionism, as well as a loss of traditional values and worldviews. Some have suggested that the end result of modernity is the loss of a stable conception of humanity and/or the human being.
Overall, semiotic analysis is an effective tool because it closely analyses the way media combine and represent meaning to the audience. It is through the use of breaking the text down and reading the codes and signs they portray, how texts are being framed and its different affects when the context is being altered and through the different types of ways texts are being communicated depending on the intention and message that is to be exposed. These three components are what influence the understanding and meaning of texts, in this case, the portrayal of modernity in today's society.